Going Batty for Bats

[ 0 ] October 16, 2009 |

By Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Education Department

Nearly synonymous with Halloween, bats are seldom seen but often misunderstood.  Test your bat IQ by guessing if the statements below are truth or myth.  Then, use the hints and tips below to search for bats in your backyard — wild or at the zoo!

October-Article---BatsBats are the only mammal that can fly.
True!  Other mammals can glide, but bats are the only ones that can truly fly.

Bats are mice with wings.
False!  Bats may resemble mice in many ways, but they are actually more closely related to flying lemurs and primates (which do include humans!).

Bats suck blood.
False!  Out of the world’s nearly 1,000 species of bats, only three are vampire bats and all live in Mexico, Central America and South America.  Two species feed on bird blood and one on mammals like goats, horses and cattle.  None actually suck blood; they make a small cut in the skin of a sleeping animal and drink a small amount.

A single Little Brown bat can eat 1000 mosquitoes in one hour.
True!  We’re lucky to have these insect eating bats right here in our backyards.  Want to attract more of them?  Buy or build a bat house.  While 70% of the world’s bats eat insects, others eat fruit, nectar, birds, lizards, frogs, fish and blood.

Bats can get tangled in your hair.

False!  Bats do occasionally fly near people when catching insects — we attract a lot of bugs – but use very precise echolocation (think: sonar) to find their way.  They can avoid obstacles as thin as one strand of human hair, much less an entire head of it.

All bats have rabies.
False!    In fact, researchers estimate that only ½ of 1% of all bats carry rabies.  However, a bat that comes near humans may be sick, injured or scared.  It is always important to keep a safe distance from wild animals, bats included.

Searching for bats can be an unpredictable but rewarding activity for individuals and families alike. To increase your chances of success, try looking in places bats can often be seen like snacking on insects attracted to parking lot lights, street lamps in open residential areas or even swooping down for a drink over still water in open ponds.  Don’t wait too long to head out with your flashlight — the 9 species of bats found in New England all hibernate or migrate in the winter months.  If you miss your window of opportunity, take a trip to Roger Williams Park Zoo to see Jamaican Fruit Bats (pictured above).

Another idea to help you engage your kids in the wonders of nature all around us, from Roger Williams Park Zoo’s awarding winning education department. 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI

Photo Credit: Roger Williams Park Zoo

Category: activities: outdoor, local ri area, nature/science, seasonal


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